Sep 01, 2014

Three ways offsite construction can tackle the affordable housing shortage

The UK needs more affordable homes. That’s an indisputable fact. It’s a feature of much political, media and industry debate, and it seems to be an issue that continues to grow in prominence. Recent research from property agents Savills suggests that in the South East alone, 160,000 new homes will be needed over the next few years.

Many opinions have been offered on how we, as a country, go about tackling the challenge. The UK Government released its latest Affordable Homes Programme for 2015-2018 in January this year, which suggests encouraging increased partnership between local authorities, housing associations and private contractors to provide more homes and maximise cost efficiencies.

That’s just one opinion. From the industry, we’ve had the group chief executive of Barratt Developments call for structural reforms and a re-balancing of public expenditure. We’ve also had contributions from think tanks, such as the Policy Exchange, which propose the introduction of a universal public housing system.

We’re going to offer another perspective – a simple and practical step that can be taken to keep homes affordable, speed up the rate at which they are built and ensure they are fit for the future. We’re talking about using offsite construction methods to deliver more of the UK’s homes.

The reasons for taking this approach are fairly straightforward. Here are the top three ways using offsite construction methods would help address the issue:

Building in volume: Offsite construction allows you to manufacture in volume, which increases speed of build and enhances cost effectiveness. With much of the work taking place in factory conditions, it also ensures quality control of products throughout. The building components are structurally robust, consistent and built to last. Combined, all of this makes offsite construction particularly suitable for housing and flatted developments, although it’s also great for commercial projects too.

Cost effective construction: Building offsite with timber means a number of costs can be removed from the house building process without sacrificing on quality. Sites require less preparation, there are fewer labourers required and they spend less time working on the project. All of that adds up to a potential cost reduction of 30% on site prelims. What’s more, a lower number of people working on site for less time reduces the requirement for health and safety equipment. With guaranteed manufacturing consistency as standard, designs are drawn in advance and called off as required, providing short lead times and in-time delivery to site.

Reduced environmental impact: Manufacturing offsite means we can precision engineer the timber systems, which makes for a better quality product with fewer flaws. It also means that the products are manufactured in a controlled environment with greater control over every day processes and waste management. The enhanced design and material management available through a factory manufactured process also provides options for various value solutions in attaining thermal regulations and acoustic performance cost-effectively.

In short, offsite construction allows you to build more quickly, minimise cost and deliver high quality, high performance housing. 

Do you have any thoughts on how we can address the challenge of delivering more affordable housing in the UK? Tell us by getting in touch or tweeting us on @TimberSystems.

Homes For Scotland Home Builders Federation National House-Building Council Royal Institute of British Architects Structural Timber Association Constructionline British Board of Agrement Wood Campus Build Off Site Building Research Establishment WOOD FOR GOOD

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